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Waste and Covid-19 missteps plague CoreCivic's border lockup

"We determined ICE paid more than $22 million for unused bed space"

CoreCivic
CoreCivic

Auditors from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General say their snap visit to the Otay Mesa Detention Center - run by private prison contractor CoreCivic for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency - has uncovered a raft of costly abuses.

The auditors add that the troubled operation has cost taxpayers millions of dollars due to ICE's deal with CoreCivic, previously a significant source of funds to California legislative Democrats and their party as well as to Donald Trump and fellow Republicans.

Otay Mesa has been a lucrative venture for CoreCivic, the audit reveals. "From April 2020 to March 2021, 47 percent of the guaranteed bed space at Otay Mesa went unused, and the detainee population only surpassed 750 for two days in early April 2020," according to the findings.

"We determined ICE paid more than $22 million for unused bed space for a one-year period under the guaranteed minimum contract."

"Although ICE must acquire and maintain enough bed space to satisfy demand for detainee population surges, it must also strive for balance to avoid wasting funds on empty beds.

"If the detainee population remains less than the 750- detainee threshold provided in the guaranteed minimum contract, Otay Mesa will continue to receive full payment from ICE for housing fewer detainees."

Despite Otay Mesa's burgeoning cost, the institution has not escaped the onslaught of Covid-19, auditors found.

"During our unannounced inspection of Otay Mesa in San Diego, California, we identified violations of ICE detention standards that compromised the health, safety, and rights of detainees."

"Since March 2020, 386 detainees at Otay Mesa have tested positive for COVID-19, and one detainee died due to complications of the virus.

"Otay Mesa provided detainees with masks but initially required detainees to sign paperwork relieving the facility of any liability stemming from wearing masks and allegedly threatened detainees who refused to sign the release with pepper spray.

"One female detainee alleged an Otay Mesa staff member pepper-sprayed a crowd of female detainees who were objecting to [signing the liability waiver].

According to auditors, "Otay Mesa denied threatening detainees with pepper spray and recorded no uses of force or uses of pepper spray during this initial distribution of masks. We requested video of this incident, but the facility stated that it did not keep video from the previous year."

"The facility reported that later on April 10, 2020, the same day it began requiring detainees to sign the forms, it discontinued its use of the forms, distributed masks to all detainees, and returned the three female detainees who were disruptive to their dormitory."

"An Otay Mesa staff member explained the form was intended to advise detainees wearing the mask would not fully safeguard them against contracting COVID-19."

As late as this February, the audit says, the use of masks and social distancing at the facility was still being haphazardly enforced. "During our February 2021 livestream walkthrough across multiple housing units, we observed numerous detainees within 6 feet of each other throughout the facility, not wearing masks."

"We also reviewed facility surveillance video footage from January and February 2021 and observed detainees in housing units gathered in groups not wearing masks or practicing social distancing."

"Because ICE was not using all its contracted beds, Otay Mesa had the ability to place fewer people in each unit to allow for appropriate social distancing.

"However, Otay Mesa did not space detainees out in the housing units with the unused space, rather it closed multiple units in the facility to consolidate space."

Vaccination efforts were equally imperfect, the audit's findings suggest.

"As of March 10, 2021, 183 detainees and inmates had received the first round of COVID-19 vaccines, and 153 had received the second dose and were fully vaccinated.

"During our follow-up with Otay Mesa on May 4, 2021, officials reported a total of 248 detainees and inmates had received the first dose of the vaccines, and 165 had received the second since vaccination efforts began."

But, adds the report, "Because of the required wait time between doses, some detainees and inmates were unable to receive the second dose before they were released."

ICE administrators agreed with most of the findings of the report and promised to deal with the problems, except for the audit's call for revising the CoreCivic operating agreement "if populations continue to remain well under the guaranteed minimums outlined in the contract."

ICE "continues to see an upward trend in detainee population and, as of August 13, 2021, are housing more than 700 detainees" at Otay Mesa, according to the agency's response.

Replied the inspector general's office:

"We will close this recommendation when we receive documentation showing that ICE has developed and implemented a revised housing plan to better address social distancing to reduce health risks related to exposure to and transmission of COVID-19.

“ICE should also review contracting options if populations continue to remain well under the guaranteed minimums outlined in the contract.”

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CoreCivic
CoreCivic

Auditors from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General say their snap visit to the Otay Mesa Detention Center - run by private prison contractor CoreCivic for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency - has uncovered a raft of costly abuses.

The auditors add that the troubled operation has cost taxpayers millions of dollars due to ICE's deal with CoreCivic, previously a significant source of funds to California legislative Democrats and their party as well as to Donald Trump and fellow Republicans.

Otay Mesa has been a lucrative venture for CoreCivic, the audit reveals. "From April 2020 to March 2021, 47 percent of the guaranteed bed space at Otay Mesa went unused, and the detainee population only surpassed 750 for two days in early April 2020," according to the findings.

"We determined ICE paid more than $22 million for unused bed space for a one-year period under the guaranteed minimum contract."

"Although ICE must acquire and maintain enough bed space to satisfy demand for detainee population surges, it must also strive for balance to avoid wasting funds on empty beds.

"If the detainee population remains less than the 750- detainee threshold provided in the guaranteed minimum contract, Otay Mesa will continue to receive full payment from ICE for housing fewer detainees."

Despite Otay Mesa's burgeoning cost, the institution has not escaped the onslaught of Covid-19, auditors found.

"During our unannounced inspection of Otay Mesa in San Diego, California, we identified violations of ICE detention standards that compromised the health, safety, and rights of detainees."

"Since March 2020, 386 detainees at Otay Mesa have tested positive for COVID-19, and one detainee died due to complications of the virus.

"Otay Mesa provided detainees with masks but initially required detainees to sign paperwork relieving the facility of any liability stemming from wearing masks and allegedly threatened detainees who refused to sign the release with pepper spray.

"One female detainee alleged an Otay Mesa staff member pepper-sprayed a crowd of female detainees who were objecting to [signing the liability waiver].

According to auditors, "Otay Mesa denied threatening detainees with pepper spray and recorded no uses of force or uses of pepper spray during this initial distribution of masks. We requested video of this incident, but the facility stated that it did not keep video from the previous year."

"The facility reported that later on April 10, 2020, the same day it began requiring detainees to sign the forms, it discontinued its use of the forms, distributed masks to all detainees, and returned the three female detainees who were disruptive to their dormitory."

"An Otay Mesa staff member explained the form was intended to advise detainees wearing the mask would not fully safeguard them against contracting COVID-19."

As late as this February, the audit says, the use of masks and social distancing at the facility was still being haphazardly enforced. "During our February 2021 livestream walkthrough across multiple housing units, we observed numerous detainees within 6 feet of each other throughout the facility, not wearing masks."

"We also reviewed facility surveillance video footage from January and February 2021 and observed detainees in housing units gathered in groups not wearing masks or practicing social distancing."

"Because ICE was not using all its contracted beds, Otay Mesa had the ability to place fewer people in each unit to allow for appropriate social distancing.

"However, Otay Mesa did not space detainees out in the housing units with the unused space, rather it closed multiple units in the facility to consolidate space."

Vaccination efforts were equally imperfect, the audit's findings suggest.

"As of March 10, 2021, 183 detainees and inmates had received the first round of COVID-19 vaccines, and 153 had received the second dose and were fully vaccinated.

"During our follow-up with Otay Mesa on May 4, 2021, officials reported a total of 248 detainees and inmates had received the first dose of the vaccines, and 165 had received the second since vaccination efforts began."

But, adds the report, "Because of the required wait time between doses, some detainees and inmates were unable to receive the second dose before they were released."

ICE administrators agreed with most of the findings of the report and promised to deal with the problems, except for the audit's call for revising the CoreCivic operating agreement "if populations continue to remain well under the guaranteed minimums outlined in the contract."

ICE "continues to see an upward trend in detainee population and, as of August 13, 2021, are housing more than 700 detainees" at Otay Mesa, according to the agency's response.

Replied the inspector general's office:

"We will close this recommendation when we receive documentation showing that ICE has developed and implemented a revised housing plan to better address social distancing to reduce health risks related to exposure to and transmission of COVID-19.

“ICE should also review contracting options if populations continue to remain well under the guaranteed minimums outlined in the contract.”

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Comments
1

Maybe Core Civic can fill its many expensive empty beds with the thousands of Haitians waiting under that Del Rio, Texas, bridge. At least they would be in the USA in the asylum system after having traveled across Central America to get here.

Sept. 20, 2021

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